Sea Horse, any of a number of small fishes of the same family as the pipefish. The name is derived from the resemblance of the head’s shape to that of a horse. It has long, tubular jaws much like a snout. The body is compressed, with an elongated tail, and the integument (external covering) is a series of large, rectangular bony plates, sometimes with a series of spines and projections along the lines of juncture. These spines, together with the divided, streamer-like fins of some species, give them a strong resemblance to the seaweeds among which they live. Worldwide, over 30 species are found in the seagrass beds, mangroves, and reefs of various warm and temperate seas. There are only two species of sea horse in British waters: the short-snouted sea horse Hippocampus hippocampus and the European sea horse Hippocampus guttulatus; both are rare. There are several species found around Australia including White’s sea horse, and the big belly sea horse, which is also found around the New Zealand coastline.
All sea horses keep near the shore, sometimes developing in brackish water. Like the pipefishes, the males take charge of the eggs, which are squirted by the female into the male’s abdominal pouch where they are quickly fertilized. They remain there until they hatch. Sea horses are monogamous and have a complex courtship ritual. They are exploited for traditional Chinese medicine, the aquarium trade, and as curios.
Scientific classification: Sea horses make up the genus Hippocampus in the family Syngnathidae. The short-snouted or short-nosed sea horse is classified as Hippocampus hippocampus, the European sea horse as Hippocampus guttulatus, White’s sea horse or the crowned sea horse as Hippocampus whitei, and the big belly sea horse as Hippocampus abdominalis.